On a scale of 1-10, how engaged is your church?
Do you look forward to worshiping on Sunday or are you worried that everyone in the room hates you?
It’s frustrating, isn’t it? To put so much time and effort into preparing for Sunday…to be met only by staring (sometimes glaring) faces. Why don’t people engage?
While you’d like to blame it on their lack of spiritual depth, it’s most likely something you can work on. Of course, that’s a general statement. There are other factors at work. But this is something I’ve observed in my own leadership for 18 years as well as coaching many other worship leaders and teams.
How should we approach engagement? Should be obsess over it, counting the number of hands that are raised? Is that worship leader success?
Or should we forget about it and just pursue Jesus? I’ve seen both. The right answer is somewhere in the middle. We can’t ignore engagement, because we’re called to lead the church. It’s our responsibility to help them discover their voice in this midst of their victory and trial.
But we also can’t obsess over it because that’s just an adventure in missing the point.
Here are a handful of tips for navigating these waters.
13 Reasons Why Your Church Isn’t Engaged in Worship
1. People don’t know the songs – If you lead too many unfamiliar songs, people will have a hard time engaging. They’re thinking too much about the newness and can’t fully dive in.
2. People don’t connect with the songs – It’s possible you are leading songs you love, but your congregation simply doesn’t connect with. Lead the songs that have a visible effect on people. If a song isn’t working, have the courage to toss it out.
3. You’re not an invitational leader – Many congregations don’t respond because you haven’t invited them to. There’s a disposition, a vibe a leader gives off that is either invitational or a spectacle. Be an invitational leader—give vocal cues, encourage, coach, speak up, smile, be engaged, help them sing.
4. Your team isn’t engaged – Have you looked at your team recently? You may have an unresponsive church because your team looks like they want to kill someone. Think about it. Do you feel motivated to engage in an activity where the leaders don’t want to be there? It’s not enough for you as the leader to be engaged. Coach your team to step outside their instrument and worship.
5. Your set isn’t structured well – Many times the actual setlist is a deterrent to corporate worship. Once you’ve chosen your set, filter it with these questions:
- Have I planned my transitions?
- Is there any room for silence or spontaneity?
- Where can I place a simple, stripped back chorus or hymn?
- When am I going to address the congregation?
6. There’s not enough space – Let’s talk a little bit more about space. It could be your church isn’t engaging because it’s just too produced—it moves from full song to full song to full song to full song, like an album tracklist. A setlist that engages utilizes space. There’s moments of spontaneous worship, contemplation, Scripture and exhortation. People want to feel a part of the moment and engagement will never happen unless you create space for it.
7. You’re singing but not coaching – Say this out loud, “Vocal cues are my friend.” You might be the best singer in the country. Your talent may very well be mind-blowing. But an engaging worship leader isn’t just one who shows people how great they are. They help others find their voice. Of course, there’s a wrong way to do this. Constant vocal cues can be annoying when they’re before every line of the song. For me, I determine the most anthemic moments of a song and always encourage the church to sing out before heading into those sections. Don’t miss this. Vocal cues are the quickest way to increase your church’s engagement.
8. The mix is poor – Is your sound guy managing volume or mixing music? There’s a fundamental difference. I understand how difficult it is to find any sound techs, let alone good ones. But this could turn into a great coaching opportunity with your current roster. It’s hard to engage if the mix is awful. Too quiet, and people feel awkward. Too loud, and their brains hurt. As Chris Greely says, a good mix doesn’t have to be a loud. Coach your techs to mix sound like it’s an instrument, not just pull the volume down.